(In-person, original coverage of a local race — wonderful. – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)
It was everything I hoped it would be and more. The Candidates all brought everything they had (which is more impressive for some than others) and provided a couple hours of very entertaining discussion in one of the most (if not the most) contentious Democratic primaries in the state.
The debate was hosted in Arapahoe County’s brand new headquarters, which looks fantastic, and featured the three Democratic Candidates vying for the open House District 41 seat.
The candidates are/were:
Andrew Bateman: The Activist
Jovan Melton: The Staffer
Terry Todd: The Husband
Highlights and my version of Monday-morning-QBing after the jump…
Here’s how I felt about the race before the debate, including some background on the candidates themselves.
The Short Version: Bateman Won. Melton made a good showing. And Todd reinforced the feeling that he is out of his league.
In the opening statements, the candidates each gave the routine “thanks for being here, isn’t democracy great, I’m a good person” type remarks. Bateman also asked the crowd (packed to the walls) to watch for who was being vague about what they want to do versus who put forward serious and specific policies, and that he planned to do the latter. In my opinion, he was the only one to do so.
The First (and most predictable) Question
When asked what they each thought the most important issue for HD41 was, Todd answered first with a vague response related to economy that could be created (yes, he said “economy created”) by ensuring that the light rail expansion is completed. Bateman immediately came out swinging, saying that if Todd thought RTD was the most important issue in the district, he should consider running for the RTD board, but since this was a race for the state legislature, Bateman would address a state-wide issue. He then laid out a fascinating proposal for what he called “partial unemployment” which could prevent workers from being laid off during a recession and help companies re-staff faster during recovery. Melton’s answer, I honestly can’t remember. It didn’t stand out to me.
The Meat of the Debate
Most of the evening followed that tone. Melton came across as likable and capable, but failed to demonstrate much knowledge of public policy. Bateman, on the other hand, was never unable to answer a question in detail and easily came across as the smartest guy up there. What’s more, he showed his work, listing off a new example of actual accomplishment and progress that he had contributed to, or even led, for nearly every issue raised by the audience.
I got the feeling throughout the evening that Bateman and Melton were united in the cause of de-legitimizing Todd. If so, it was very successful. Neither missed an opportunity to highlight what Todd didn’t know about something, including a moment where Bateman had to remind Todd what Ref C was. Meanwhile, each of them seemed to hold off on openly attacking each other. Maybe that is just a sign of who respects whom.
They did all come together at one point when Independent HD41 candidate JM Fay asked a nonsensical question about four-square-mile. All three of them, as well as anyone else in the room who knew her, let out a unanimous exasperated sigh at the woman who has become little more than an incessant bother to everyone she encounters, barraging us all with hard-headed personal vendettas and crusades. I was happy to see the three of them trade smiling glances before brushing off the question and moving on.
My Favorite Moment of the Whole Evening
Toward the end, when the candidates were given time to ask questions of each other, Todd took a desperate swing, pulling out the only criticism of Bateman and Melton he’s been able to come up with since last April. He accused both Melton and Bateman of being dishonest about their history of residency within the district. As this issue has been raised a number of times by Todd and his allies and consequently rebutted several times over the last year, I caught several people rolling their eyes.
Melton responded first by pointing out that he attended public school in the district and grew up here. He had only left the district because he was working at the capitol, but returned to care for his ill mother well before deciding to run for office.
Bateman then gave the same answer he’s been giving all along, that while he has lived in several places around the county, he has lived in Arapahoe County since the day he was born. And that while he did, in fact, move across the district board (a move of a few blocks) to run for 41, he didn’t believe that people on opposite sides of an imaginary line had significantly different issues. He went on to state that, as people who had grown up in the area, he and Melton had a much better understanding of what it is like to live, work, and go to school in the district than Todd, who grew up, went to school, went to college, and began his career in another state, moving to Colorado only after establishing a stable career.
Bateman then responded directly to the accusation of dishonestly, calling out Todd for refusing to give a straight answer on whether or not he was running when asked repeatedly by Bateman leading up to his entrance in the race. A the time Bateman announced and filed, he was the only candidate of either party in the race.
Favorite Lines From Each Candidate
Todd: “My website is www dot… um… Terry… uh… J… Todd dot Com”
Melton: (while talking about the repeal of TABOR, which both he and Bateman committed to supporting, and which Todd avoided committing to)”You can’t eat the elephant all at once, you have to do it one bite at a time. I call it an elephant because, well, that’s where it came from.”
Bateman: “There is more to being a representative than raising your hand at the right moment. You have to be willing and able to do the hard work and convince others to raise their hands at the same time.”
What Each Candidate Could Have Done Better
Melton: Every time you followed one of the other candidates, you started by saying “I agree with…”, which made it difficult for the things you said to stand out. You have the opposite problem as Bateman. While your personality is very appealing, you don’t speak up for yourself enough to get noticed.
Bateman: I get that you are the smartest guy in the race and that you want to demonstrate that, but you have a tendency to come across as a bit arrogant. Deserved or not, it’s a little off-putting and you may want to work on it. A forceful presentation is necessary sometimes, like when pumping up a rally, but you have to be able to play the humble public servant sometimes, too. Crack some jokes, smile more, and inspire people to be a part of what you’re trying to do.
Todd: For the love of God, study! You were a teacher for crying out loud (albeit an elementary gym teacher). Being the husband of a legislator does not qualify you to be one. If you want to make it through the next few weeks as a candidate, you have got to be able to show up with something more substantive than weak lines about “liberty and justice for all.” Tell us what you plan to do. Show us you can bring something to the table. Or get out of the way and let the two who did their homework have a productive primary without you in it.
Where I Stand
Bateman and Melton both impressed me overall. Todd did not. While I think Melton could easily do the job of being a legislator and do it competently, I believe that Bateman would be able to light a much needed fire under some asses at the capitol.
I encourage others in the district or around the state to support one of these two as well. They are good, strong, up-and-coming politicos and this position will be a great fit and a great start for either of them. Todd, on the other hand, is 72. And I hate to make it about age, but this is not a person that we can hope for big things from. At best, he will follow his wife’s footsteps, serve 8 years in each house and then retire from politics at the age of 89.
I wish all the candidates well at caucus. But I sincerely hope that Bateman and Melton emerge as the primary contenders and that Todd sees the light and backs out. I think primaries are good for a party, but only if the participants are elevating the level of debate, not dragging it down.